"A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet."

Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

Antonioni’s “Blow-up” and the memory of London in the 60’s

In Architecture, Film, The Art of Film, Theory Work on April 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Visit my new Essay’s Blog: FilmandSpace

Swinging London in the mid-1960s was the last place you might expect to find an onscreen discussion of the ontology of the photographic image or musings on the very nature of human perception. Nor was London, whose contemporary style was typified by the daily and very public passagiato of Carnaby Street, The Rolling Stones and That Was the Week that Was, likely to be the setting for a film that would call into question the very nature of sight and memory as well as skewering the common posturings of that decade. Yet Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup is a film that resonates today and is still capable of raising questions about the epistemology of the Cinema, while coldly recording a period that seems, in retrospect, so very fantastical.

Antonioni’s career as a cinematic chronicler of Northern Italian middle class urban ennui was already established by the early 1960s. With L’Avventura (1960), which won the Special Jury Award at Cannes and Il Deserto Rosso (1964), a chronicle of empty life in a modern Northern Italian industrial wasteland, he revealed a unique aesthetic and a cold eye for human pretension and a certain emptiness at the heart of the contemporary city. Indeed, Antonioni seems to call into question the celebrated wonders of modernity itself in a way that seemed to echo the concerns Jacques Tati had explored so comically in Mon Oncle (1958): namely whether modern life, particularly in a city infatuated with the New, was worth the aggravation.

All of which suggests that perhaps Antonioni was more than a little aware of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (1927) which claims that any observed happening (however neutral or scientific the act of observation) is altered by the mere presence of the observer. Observation is thus never a neutral or abstract process. Certainly if there is a central informing principle to the narrative matrix of Blowup it is this: that no phenomenon is pure unto itself – especially when human emotions come into play, let alone consideration like guilt, obsession and, finally, fear.

The film commences with a fast moving introduction to the very stylish world of a hot fashion photographer, Thomas, played by that emblematic ’60s actor, David Hemmings. This is the world made notorious by magazines like Tatler and Queen as well as all the tabloids of the world, all Pucci fashion, dolly birds (Jane Birkin made her name in this film), drugs, fast cars and rock-and-roll.

As for those actual ’60s photographers Terence Donovan and David Bailey, from whom Thomas’ character seems in part constructed, this is the historical moment when the photographer/model association became an object of public worship. Thomas is surrounded by a fog of available chicks and big money. Trendy London lies at his feet. Antonioni, like Federico Fellini in La Dolce Vita (1960), was clearly out to peel back the decadence to show the abyss beneath – all dazzlingly brought to life with the aid of Carlo Di Palma’s jazzy cinematography.

The movie then goes into overdrive as Thomas sees something (or maybe not) while photographing in a London park. The swinging world recedes as Thomas becomes morbidly obsessed by the possibility he has in fact photographed a murder. Is that a body under the bushes? If not, what, then? The title’s meaning becomes clear as Thomas repeatedly enlarges, studies, and reworks his negatives to locate the proof for something, any evidence of a possible occurrence that seems, as his obsession grows, to become increasingly elusive. Subsequently, the film becomes, in part, a meditation on the very nature of reality and how we deform the natural with interpretations and inflexions.

Unlike a more conventional thriller (as Blowup sometimes appears) the film offers no cosy or pat solution – we never know, nor can Thomas tell, whether there was a murder, or if all that occurs is a product of a fevered mind in an overheated big city?

Read more…

Jill Kennington discusses her participation in Blow-Up.


Architecture of Mind

In Architecture on April 21, 2011 at 7:56 pm

“There is double and crossed situating of the visible in the tangible and the tangible in the visible: the two maps are complete, and yet they do not merge into one. The two parts are total parts and yet are not superposable.”

-Merleau-Ponty, “The Intertwining-The Chiasm”

In Kiasmus ” an interior mystery and the exterior horizon , which, like two hands clasping each other, form the architectonic equivalent of a public invitation. ”
-Steven Holl, “Kiasma monograph”

Steven Holl asks the same question of architecture that Merleau- Ponty asks of philosophy . Can the ambulating sentient being embedded as he or she is in the matrix of concretized values as they are inscribed in that being experience and understand seeing in a context articulated for that purpose? How can a building such as Kiasma, function simultaneously as the “frame” of the experience of and for visual art and as an embodiment of the very process of seeing. For Holl like Ponty uses the analogy of the optic chiasm with its “inflected” decussating fiber structure which appropriates the visual field like a highway cloverleaf, allowing each hemifield to be conjoined, left side to right sided brain and right side to left side of the brain, to serve a as model to appropriate the entire visual apparatus including the eye and the folded surface of the brain, for his purpose.

Read the full article here.

Sir Ken Adam talking about his design work for 007

In Architecture, Film, The Art of Film on March 17, 2011 at 2:41 am

Production designer Sir Ken Adam was behind many of these, and here he shares his
thoughts on two of his most celebrated sets.

Click here to watch the documentary

Twelve Categories to Study Film and Architecture Relationship

In Architecture, Design, Film, The Art of Film on March 10, 2011 at 12:18 am

The topic “film and architecture” has ignited discourses from various viewpoints. Some are quite simple such as architect in major role or architecture as background, while others are more critical, probing into the structuring of the film. This article will categorize some of these existing ideas of how a film should be studied in the light of architectural discourse.

Film and architecture has been one of the most discussed topic among those involved in either discipline. There are separate views of how to evaluate the subjects and where are they linked. Though for every film there has to be some architecture in the designing of the background set involved, it is not only the set that becomes the subject of the study. And there is another less critical understanding of film and architecture where an architect is involved as a major or influential character of the story. But mostly it is the ordering of the sequence, dynamics in the arrangement of the storyline, and the spatial organization of the shot divisions where mainly critics find the similarity of the art and structure of architecture in the same of the film. Therefore these films may or may not have any direct relation with architecture either as a set or as a character. “Stalker” or “Nostalghia” by Andrei Tarkovsky or more recent example of “Run Lola Run” is studied in such perspective. However while talking about film and architecture, the movies that are always pointed out as examples can be divided in certain categories. 12 such categories are listed below with some of the examples of films.

Andrei Tarkovsky on the set of Stalker

Read more: http://www.bukisa.com/articles/212833_twelve-categories-to-study-film-and-architecture-relationship#ixzz1FpO1HvfY

1: architect as a major character in film

Examples: 12 Angry Men, Belly of an Architect, Indecent Proposal, The Black cat, and more famously The Fountainhead

Category 2: life of an architect

Example: In which Annie gives it those ones

Category 3: architecture as a metaphor to enhance the theme of the story

Examples: Alphaville, Brazil, Dr. Strangelove, La Jetee, Nostalghia, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Category 4: criticism of architecture/modern urban surrounding

Examples: Mon Oncle, Playtime, Sleeper

Mon Oncle, Jaques Tati

Category 5: experimenting with the structure of the film similar to architecture

Example: Tango, The Man with a Movie Camera, Wavelength

The Man with a Movie Camera

Category 6: Famous architecture/ building used as background set of the film

Example: Blade Runner, Le Mepris, Gatacca

Category 7: imaginary architecture in film

Examples: Aelita, Batman series, Just Imagine, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars

Category 8: Imaginary architecture in Animation

Examples: Castle in the Sky, Howl’s Moving Castle, On your Mark, Dragon Hunter

Category 9: Space architecture in film

Examples: 2001 A Space Odyssey, First Men in the Moon, Outland, Solaris, Total Recall

Category 10: architecture of the future

Examples: Blade Runner, Just Imagine, Metropolis, Minority Report

Blade Runner

Category 11: films that have similar artistic origin in composing space and time

Examples: Buffet Froid, Casanova, Drowning by Numbers, Europa, Memento, Run Lola Run


Category 12: feature length documentary films

Examples: My Architect, Sketches of Frank Gehry

An Architect as a Filmmaker

In Architecture, Film, The Art of Film on March 6, 2011 at 11:39 pm

” That’s one of the beauties of films:  they really do communicate.  Dynamic instead of static, they offer sound, motion, colour, all adding up to a higher degree of involvement than possible with more traditional media of our profession.”

With films, an architect can let his diversified audiences- clients, prospects, the public – not just see design proposals but actually experience them.  The desire to “experience and anticipate projects led Vincent G. Kling Associates to films to begin with… Here is how one firm uses this diverse communications medium.

Please click on the link below to read the article:  Kling_ArchitectAsFilmMaker

To find out more about the Snorkel Camera click here: snorkel.htm

Article taken from: Aia Journal; February 1971

Memory in time and Space: Project Presentation

In Architecture, Project Work on February 28, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Trailer for the Project Film:

Skylon Tower 1951, South Bank, London


The Discovery Dome, South Bank, London1951

Panorama of the Festival of Britain, London 1951


Matte Painting Template

DVD Design in IDVD Mac

The Video of the  CAD Model

Memory in Time and Space

In Architecture, Film, Project Work, The Art of Film on February 7, 2011 at 6:33 pm


“My objective is to crate a space in which the spectator will instantly feel as if he was intruding on someone’s memories. It’s the kind of thing that u can watch ten times over and get new meaning each time.”

“Technically photography is a medium of memory, from the moment it’s taken via processing to the final photograph.  It always shows something which was present but is now in the past.  It captures for the observer, among other things, fleeting eventful experiences in the form of a reproduction on a two dimensional surface.  The observer remains outside the scene and as such can only revive it through his imagination .  Vice versa, since becoming mobile and liberating themselves from being hung on walls as illustrations and prints, images have become a possibility of observing something distanced in space and time, of being, of travelling somewhere else, without moving from where one is.” (Florian Rötzer)


In this project I will be undertaking the role of a set designer.  Scenographer’s part is not only an artistic or an architectural but most of all his work is based on symbolism.  A chair in a private kitchen and the one used in a film is entirely different.  In a domestic environment it has a practical use, in a cinema it becomes a symbolical object that communicates emotions and conveys ideas to the audience.

A scenographer develops the appearance of a stage design, a TV or movie set, a gaming environment, a trade fair exhibition design or a museum experience exhibition design. The term originated in theater. A scenographer works together with the theater director to make the message come through in the best way they think possible, the director having the leading role and responsibility particularly for dramatic aspects – such as casting, acting, and direction – and the scenographer primarily responsible for the visual aspects or “look” of the production – which often includes scenery or sets, lighting, and costumes, and may include projections or other aspects. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scenographer)


  1. CARROUSEL IMAGE PROJECTING DEVICE (think Carrousel Slide Projector, each horse back to play the position of a silngle image and the viewpoint of the person’s memory)
  3. IMAGES from the Festival of Britain 1951 Documentary Film (Black and White) MEMORY FROM THE PAST

Evolution from personal memory to digital memory in an architectural space.

The carousel, as a metaphor, has several universal connotations generally dealing with the idealized innocence of youth and a carefree nature.  As a ride that revolves, its circular path can also signify of the wheel of life and fortune. Combining these views of the carousels symbolism: innocence, lost, the constancy of life, and destiny, are an allusion to the individual, and society at large, dignified in time at the end of this century and the beginning of the new millennium.

In this way I interpret these two images to be related: The carousel depicts the “conscious” world image of life’s path and the photographic images from the Festival of Britain depicts the “unconscious” divine equivalent, a delightful memory of the grand festival.

This is also an example of the search for the unification of the world of fantasy (as in a dream or a world of the cinema) and its nestling space (the architectural environment of the dreams setting).

The images of South Bank used in the set are reproduced from their original form, treated as flat, two-dimensional photographs to retain its role as a symbol. Placed over the carousel – the horse figures, colorless and transparent in itself; take on the colors of the images from the past. The carousel becomes a stage for the show, the grand events of the exhibition. The interplay of the “real” and “imagined” blur and shift. Perspective space is implied yet mystified with uncertainty.

Through the presence of carousel I want to explore the relationship between the human mind and the memory of a past event, image process and the technological development shown in the presence of architectural buildings.  The set illustrates the projection of an image and importance of film responds to human’s memory in an architectural environment.

I also like the analogy of carousel to image projection – its presence is almost as if it was a real carousel slide projector, a device projecting still images in its immediate space.  It moves and continues in motion, but the journey of a carousel is an illusion, just as the illusion of a moving image in our minds (visual fantasy).

The photographic images of Festival of Britain – symbolize the Memory. The 3d model of the Festival Buildings and the Carousel (crated and rendered in Vector Works CAD Program) symbolize the architectural environment of the dream.  I used the model in a very technical and unrefined look (almost like taken from the architect’s desk) intentionally underline the relationship between the two worlds.

Modeling  of the Carrousel in Vector Works

Rendering of the Model

Adjusting of the Images in Photoshop

3d CAD Model of the Festival of Britain 1951


The Story behind my Project – “Designing Dreams”

In Architecture, Film, Project Work on December 6, 2010 at 1:23 am

“My ambition is to recreate that dream world of fantasy, grandeur, passion and a spectacular landscape.”



My project is about the relationship between film and architecture in the environment of a city.




Many things, but most of all – the grand scale of the Festival of Britain,

that took place in the South Bank in the 1951.

The Theatrical Appeal of the South Bank.

I am also fascinated by the art of Matte Painting

and The History of Film and its importance in relation

to architecture and how we see our cities…


Whilst researching about the significant relationship between film and architecture I discovered the Art of Matte Painting.  I was truly amazed by the beauty and grandeur of the screens and the clever techniques applied by the artists in order to create the illusion of an environment that would otherwise be too expensive or impossible to build or visit.  I have decided to read more on the subject of Matt Painting and that’s how I came across a fantastic book called “The Invisible Art.  The legends of Movie Matte Painting” by Mark Cotta Vaz & George Lucas.

"The Invisible Art" by Mark Cotta Vaz & Craig Barron

Illustration 1.  “The Invisible Art” by Mark Cotta Vaz & Craig Barron

I have learned about Peter Ellemshaw and his matt paintings for the “Black Narcissus”.  I remember watching this film long time ago but I had no idea that, it has been mostly shot in the Pinewood Studios in London, and the stunning scenery was a pure creation of Ellemshaw’s paint brush.

Illustration 2.  Peter Ellemshaw painting interior of an ice cave for the 1962 film “In search of the Castaways”

When Black Narcissus opened in England in 1947, Great Britain was barely emerging from the agony and exhaustion of World War II. Nothing could be further from gray, hungry postwar London than the India imagined by director Michael Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger: here was a land of high mountains, lush forests, and fields of flowers exploding in deeply saturated Technicolor, a tempting landscape of overwhelming beauty.”

The film is hauntingly beautiful. In Black Narcissus, colour was used to amp up the exotic nature and “otherness” of the Indian landscape, architecture and costume.  So convincing were the studio sets, plaster mountains and matte paintings, that Powell received many letters from people who had traveled or lived in India claiming to know the exact locations of certain scenes. The skills of both Jack Cardiff (Director of Photography) and Alfred Junge (Art Director) were acknowledged with Academy Awards.

Illustration 3.  A dramatically portrayed scene from the Black Narcissus, directed by Michael Powell, 1947

I became very interested in the work of Peter Ellemshaw.  I read this wonderful book called: “Ellemshaw under Glass – Going to the Matte for Disney”. Whether recollecting his childhood in England, his early days in the movie business, his wartime experiences as a pilot, his long and fruitful years at Disney, or his second career as a fine art painter, Ellenshaw flavors his text with warmth and wit.  There is also a sparkling documentary based on the book under the same title.


With the changes of freedom after 2nd world war came the simple expressions of structure and functions, which rejected facile imitations of historical styles.  In 1951, just six years after World War II, Britain’s towns and cities still showed the scars of war that remained a constant reminder of the turmoil of the previous years. With the aim of promoting the feeling of recovery, the Festival of Britain opened on the 4th May 1951, celebrating British industry, arts and science and inspiring the thought of a better Britain.

The most effective medium modern architects had at their disposal was the exhibition, where full-scale examples of modern architecture often went on display before the public.  The exhibition pavilion and its express function as a publicity event also fostered a spirit of experimentation.

In this respect, exhibitions were comparable to movie sets, which were likewise temporary constructions having useful publicity value for studios.    Although exhibitions never attracted spectators to the same extend as did the movies, they did allow architects to reach an unprecedentedly large audience.

Exhibitions provide a convenient means of tracing the development of modern architects as viewed by the public – and of course, by the movie designers who adopted what they saw for the movies.

The story of modern architecture in the movies properly begins in the middle years of this century’s second decade.  The warfare that had inflicted so much devastation on Western Europe helped contribute to the destruction of the now outmoded notion that insisted on a separation between the “high” arts, like painting, architecture, and sculpture, and the “low” ones, like cinema.  A new purposeful realism emerged, one that sought to combine all aesthetic efforts-elite and popular – with modern technology into coherent, egalitarian agenda for the arts. It was against this background that cinema and modern architecture took first steps toward their fruitful confluence.

While film and architecture had many aesthetic affinities- most notably in their shared interest in special inventions, artificial illumination,  and movement – movie makers contributed to modernism a sense of fantasy, whimsy, and drama, qualities that modern buildings, so often lacked.  Film has the ability to execute modern designs on a grandness of scale through the many fascinating techniques that only in the cinematic world they can bloom to life…



1. “The Invisible Art.  The legends of Movie Matte Painting” by Mark Cotta Vaz & George Lucas;  Thames & Hudson, London

2.  “Ellenshaw Under Glass – Going to the Matte for Disney” by Peter Ellenshaw

3.  “How to Read a Film” by James Monaco;  Oxford University Press, New York, 2000

4. “Designing Dreams” by Donald Albrecht; Thames & Hudson’ London 1987